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U.S. Stocks Finish Choppy Trading Day Modestly Higher

wallstreet july19 05dec19 lt

Following the rebound seen in the previous session, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Eventually, the major averages ended the day modestly higher. The Dow inched up 28.01 points or 0.1 percent to 27,677.79, the Nasdaq crept up 4.03 points or 0.1 percent to 8,570.70 and the S&P 500 rose 4.67 points or 0.2 percent to 3,117.43.

The lackluster performance on Wall Street came as traders seemed reluctant to make more significant moves ahead of the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Economists expect employment to increase by 180,000 jobs in November after climbing by 128,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.6 percent.

A day ahead of the release of the monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report this morning showing an unexpected decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended November 30th.

The report said initial jobless claims slipped to 203,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 213,000. The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 215,000.

With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting 193,000 in the week ended April 13th.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in the month of October amid a notable decrease in the value of imports.

The Commerce Department said the trade deficit narrowed to $47.2 billion in October from a revised $51.1 billion in September.

Economists had expected the trade deficit to narrow to $48.7 billion from the $52.5 billion originally reported for the previous month.

The narrower trade deficit came as the value of imports tumbled by 1.7 percent to $254.3 billion, while the value of exports edged down by 0.2 percent to $207.1 billion.

News House Democrats are moving forward with drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump also contributed to the choppy trading along with a Wall Street Journal report indicating the U.S. and China are at odds over the size of Chinese agricultural purchases.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves, contributing to the lackluster close by the broader markets.

Housing stocks showed a notable move to the upside, however, with the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index climbing by 1 percent.

Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) moved sharply higher after the homebuilder reported strong fiscal fourth quarter growth in revenues and home deliveries.

Gold and computer hardware stocks also saw some strength on the day, while energy and retail stocks moved to the downside.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index and China's Shanghai Composite Index both ended the day up by 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index closed just above the unchanged line, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both fell by 0.7 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries climbed off their worst levels of the session but still closed modestly lower. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, inched up by 1.6 basis points at 1.797 percent.

Looking Ahead

The monthly jobs report is likely to be in the spotlight on Friday, overshadowing separate reports on consumer sentiment, wholesale inventories and consumer credit.

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